Before going head-to-head last Friday, both the Clover Hill Cavaliers and L.C. Bird Skyhawks thirsted for another victory, after each team was triumphant over their respective opponents last week.
Clover Hill, ranked sixth in Class 6, Region B, made an impressive comeback in a win over rival Cosby, defeating the Titans for the first time in seven years. However, the Cavaliers faced a tougher challenge, as the Skyhawks have dominated this series for well over a decade.
The Skyhawks were ranked third in Class 5, Region B, entering the game with consecutive wins over Midlothian, James River and Huguenot. Eager to add another to their list, the Skyhawks pressured the Cavaliers with intensity immediately after Clover Hill kicker West Brownless kicked off to begin the game.
Skyhawks quarterback Marcus Banks, working with running back C.J. Donaldson, pushed the Cavalier defense back to the one-yard line before scoring their first touchdown, and run by Banks to give L.C. Bird a 7-0 lead. Despite the scoring, Cavalier linebacker Derek Apple remained positive.
Apple said Clover Hill continued to "always go out there and just play the best we can", even though "(Bird is) a really good team, time and time again."
After that first touchdown, both teams struggled to put up points in the opening quarter. Kendall Cross returned a Skyhawks kick to the 33-yard line, but Clover Hill had difficulty moving the ball up the field. On a fourth and six, Brownlee entered to punt, but the attempt wasn't quick enough, blocked by Damontre Blowe, and the Skyhawks had the ball in the Clover Hill red zone.
Under pressure to reclaim possession without allowing another score, Clover Hill doubled their defensive efforts. But the Skyhawks slipped through the defense, as Donaldson scored a rushing touchdown, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. The Cavaliers slowed L.C. Bird's momentum, forcing a field goal attempt. The determined Chauncey Saunders blocked the kick, matching the energy of Blowe's blocked punt earlier. However, undeterred by the Cavs, L.C. Bird's ferocity of play remained unshaken.
Clover Hill quarterback Miles Evans was intercepted by cornerback Xavier Addison, giving the Skyhawks the ball at the Clover Hill 23. Again, a would-be rushing touchdown by Donaldson was called back due to a holding call. But, on the next play, Donaldson finally got that touchdown, scoring with 3:19 left in the opening quarter for a 15-0 lead after a completed two-point conversion.
The Cavaliers began the second quarter with possession, but couldn't threaten down the field. The Skyhawks' running attack continued to find yardage, and, to cap off the latest drive, Banks carried the ball nine yards for a touchdown, making the score 22-0 L.C. Bird with more than nine minutes left to halftime. As in the first, a battle ensued as, while the Skyhawks looked to increase their lead, Clover Hill's defense worked to hold their own, keeping the lead at 22. Apple and Cross recovered Bird fumbles at 7:03 and :53 left, respectively. But Evans and the Cavalier offense could not score, as the Skyhawk defense made it difficult to complete passes, allowing only small gains in the running attack.
After halftime, the Cavalier offense returned intent on scoring. Attacking the Skyhawks with full force, Clover Hill advanced to the Bird three-yard line. Going for it on fourth down, the Cavaliers fumbled, the Skyhawks recovering at the seven. Then, on the next play, Donaldson raced 93 yards to the house for a touchdown that turned the tide. Instead of Clover Hill getting on the board, L.C. Bird extended their lead to 29-0.
The Skyhawks completed their scoring late in the third with another Donaldson touchdown run, bringing the score to 35-0 with :48.2 left. Apple led the defensive charge to thwart a Skyhawk two-point try to keep the score the same. The fourth quarter was a stalemate, the Skyhawks seeing a third would-be touchdown called back due to a penalty, this time on a punt return. The Cavalier offense never got back in the red zone, and L.C. Bird moved to 5-1 with the 35-0 win.
All Skyhawk units put forth maximum effort to earn the shut out Friday. Donaldson, when asked about the strength of his team, said, "...when the line is working, and all of us are working, it just makes it easier for me."
L.C. Bird must carry that teamwork into Friday's showdown with #5 Manchester at home. When asked what excited him most about the game with the Lancers, Donaldson simply responded, "...to get revenge." Last year, Manchester handed L.C. Bird a seven-point loss.
Meanwhile, Clover Hill, at 2-5, still fighting for a postseason bid with Franklin County and Cosby, travel to Midlothian, who, at 3-3 is in the mix for a playoff berth of their own in Class 4, Region B, another tough challenge for the Cavaliers.